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The Southern Football League

A season off the pitch (part 2)

Monday, May 15 2017

Roy Izzard looks back at the season off the field. Part 2 covers the second half of the season from January 2017.

January brought a media storm to Hitchin when Alfie Barker  who was signed on for the club but playing at Codicote - posted obscene tweets about Bournemouth player Harry Arter’s stillborn child. The day after all media outlets jumped on the story but so well did we handle the situation that the Herts FA actually ran a course for its senior clubs using our response to the situation as a template for them to follow in similar situations.

We tried to make a positive out of a negative by deciding to hold a "pay what you want" game against Cirencester with a collection for Sands the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. This game was postponed and instead the Kings Langley fixture was chosen where a bumper crowd of 690 attended. The club raised £700, club sponsors Mastercars added a further £300 and an anonymous donor £200 meaning £1,200 was raised for Sands. The club received great plaudits for its response to the Twitter storm and the Sands officials were delighted not just with the money we raised but also for raising their profile.

A collection at the Dorchester game in February raised £131.78 for Cancer Research UK as we continued to support good causes.

In March the increase in attendances was becoming more apparent. The first five league games had an average attendance of 384 but the five most recent saw an increase to 536. It was particularly good to see the number of young supporters increasing.

There were two significant appointments made in March. Kate Deller became the first woman to join the Executive Committee while Beatrice Thirkettle became the club’s first ever Diversity Officer and this showed that Hitchin were moving with the times and prepared to break new ground. Kate and Beatrice will make sure we reach out to all sections of the community.

We held our Forces Day at the Slough game with 828 present. Money was raised for the RAF Benevolent Fund and it was our most successful Forces Day so far as we celebrated the 100th anniversary of RAF Henlow. 

Fred Andrews celebrated his 90th birthday and what a brilliant job he has done as our commercial manager. We feel he must be one of the few nonagenarians actively working in football administration.

A Red Nose Charity football evening took place at Top Field which raised £4,000 thanks to the efforts of Hitchin Boys School and Priory School and we were pleased to offer our facilities for such a good cause.

Into April and a game was played with Codicote to raise more money for Sands. This had been agreed in the aftermath of the Alfie Barker affair by the two clubs who had their world turned upside down for 24 hours in the aftermath. It was a "pay what you want" game and raised a further £950 for Sands thanks to a bigger than expected attendance, while a further £65 came from our supporters’ sponsorship of the game.

We celebrated the Women at the Game initiative at the Chippenham fixture. No less than 190 female fans attended, which is our best ever Ladies Day number. Three charities benefited from collections at the game — Humanitas, Target Ovarian Cancer and Breast Cancer Now.

There was further good news regarding attendances as we had three consecutive crowds over 800 at league games for the first time since the 1968/69 season. There was one final charity collection with £180 raised for Chickenshed at the Biggleswade game.

So in conclusion off the field in the 2016/17 season there is no doubt Hitchin Town showed how much of a community club they now are. Support is provided for good causes and we have tried and succeeded in increasing our fan base by innovative use of various initiatives. Pay what you want games have proved very popular and themed days have also been very successful. Success on the field has obviously helped and it has been great to see more people make use of Top Field. The new floodlights are  amongst the best in the league.

Our relationship with the local media has never been better and the positive news stories we now attract has only helped our standing with current and prospective sponsors. 

However plenty remains to be done and we will try to keep improving. The ground issue obviously needs to be resolved and hopefully this will be the year when a breakthrough can be announced.



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